Ah! Nick Harper again, the man who as Iâ€™ve said before, has more talent in his toenail clippings than all those chart-topping, major-label, mediocre warblers and soundalike pretty boys put together.
Described as â€œthe man who plays guitar like he’s wearing god’s underpantsâ€, I am quite certain that last night at Londonâ€™s famous 100 Club he was wearing a sequin-encrusted pair of Jehovahâ€™s boxers, as he was on sparkling form.
The 100 Club has seen performances by some of the greatest musicians so it is only right that Harpic should also play here. Loads of people had turned out to see him. Perhaps the news of Nickâ€™s rare talent is spreading at last. Being a well-kept secret doesnâ€™t pay the mortgage. For as well as playing guitar like he’s wearing god’s underpants, one minute tenderly picking out harmonics, the next thrashing the guitar like he was trying to put out flames, he performs a series of original, sensitive, perceptive and often witty songs. Nickâ€™s music is emotional and passionate. His songs describe the highs and lows of life – carefree times in his childhood, the devastating death of his mum.
â€œHowâ€™s your Dad?â€ someone shouts between songs, referring to Nickâ€™s father, the legendary singer/songwriter Roy Harper. â€œHeâ€™s fineâ€ Nick tells us. He gets this all the time. Having a famous Dad must be a mixed blessing.
Between songs Nick, often wittily and poignantly explains the inspiration behind his songs. We should expect nothing less of a son of Roy Harper! One crusty in the audience shouts: â€œShut up and play a tune!â€ Nick gets cross and asks the man to leave. The rest of the audience murmur their support and Nick regains his thread.
As well as his ever present themes of history, social justice and family, since Nick trekked to Everest base camp last October to play in the worldâ€™s highest gig for a cancer charity, heâ€™s been talking about mountains a lot, carefully creating a backdrop from which he hangs his songs together. By the end of the gig you feel like youâ€™ve â€˜gotâ€™ the story of Nick Harper.
Last night he played old favourites like â€˜Aeroplaneâ€™, â€˜By my Rocket Comes Fireâ€™ and â€˜Imaginary Friendâ€™. And Nickâ€™s standard covers of â€˜Guitar Manâ€™ (with added Whole Lotta Love where he lets his inner Led Zeppelin hang out) and Monty Pythonâ€™s â€˜Galaxy Songâ€™. Heâ€™s changed the set since we saw him tour in the autumn, adding the catchy â€˜Treasure Islandâ€™, and the haunting â€˜Evoâ€™ about the unconventional and inspirational Bolivian president Evo Morales.
He also played a new song called â€˜38â€™ which even having heard it only once, I love. I need to hear it again, Nick. Soon please!
He also played the finest version of his epic â€˜Love is Musicâ€™ Iâ€™ve ever heard him play. This song takes you time-travelling: he plays and sings for 20 minutes and more without stopping, but so good is it that it feels like no more than three of your earth minutes have passed. Then you realise you have entered deep harperspace! The song combines the anthemic chant â€˜Love is musicâ€™ which morphs into Jeff Buckleyâ€™s â€˜Graceâ€™, seamlessly moving into Zeppelinâ€™s pulsating â€˜Four sticksâ€™, the Beatlesâ€™ â€˜Norwegian Woodâ€™, the whole of Nickâ€™s own composition â€˜Headlessâ€™ and then back, triumphantly, to the â€˜Love is musicâ€™ chant. It ought be a cacophony, but in Nickâ€™s hands it becomes symphonic.
Thereâ€™s â€œno enticing jiggery cakery, no icing from the half bakeryâ€ for Nick Harper. Just expertly crafted songs with beautiful tunes and poetic lyrics about things that really matter, played with passion and meaning. Simple. No wonder time and again we canâ€™t resist the lure of a Harpic gig.
Tremendous photos by my wonderful husband Moth Clark